Mount Sinai Researcher Finds that Being One of the Younger Kids in Class May Have a Negative Effect on Academic Performance

These findings should be taken into account before prescribing stimulants for ADHD.

 – November 19, 2012 /Press Release/  –– 

A team of researchers led by an epidemiologist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine has found that being one of the younger kids in class can affect a student's academic performance. The authors of the study believe that these findings should be taken into account when evaluating children for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  As a result of the study, the team recommends that educators and health care providers take children's relative age in class into account when evaluating academic performance and other criteria for ADHD diagnosis.

Helga Zoega, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow of Epidemiology at Mount Sinai's Institute for Translational Epidemiology, along with researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Iceland worked on the study, titled "Age, Academic Performance and Stimulant Prescribing for ADHD: A Nationwide Cohort Study." The study appears online in Pediatrics on November 19.

The researchers studied more than 11,000 students over a several year period of nationwide data from Iceland. They looked at the likelihood of the children ages 9 and 12 scoring low on tests and how this related to their ages compared to others in their class. They also noted the relative likelihood of younger versus older children being prescribed stimulants between ages 7 and 14.

"Our results showed that children in the youngest third of their class attained scores more than 10 percentile points lower than students in the oldest third of the class for both math and language arts," said the study’s lead author Dr. Zoega. "Children in the youngest third were 50 percent more likely than those in the oldest third to be prescribed stimulants for ADHD."

The researchers found that the effect of relative age on academic achievement might lessen over time, but it is a significant factor up until puberty. Parents can use these findings to help inform their decisions about school readiness for children born close to cutoff dates for school entry.

About The Mount Sinai Medical Center

The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses both The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Established in 1968, Mount Sinai School of Medicine is one of the leading medical schools in the United States. The Medical School is noted for innovation in education, biomedical research, clinical care delivery, and local and global community service. It has more than 3,400 faculty in 32 departments and 14 research institutes, and ranks among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding and by U.S. News & World Report.

The Mount Sinai Hospital, founded in 1852, is a 1,171-bed tertiary- and quaternary-care teaching facility and one of the nation's oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. In 2012, U.S. News & World Report ranked The Mount Sinai Hospital 14th on its elite Honor Roll of the nation's top hospitals based on reputation, safety, and other patient-care factors. Mount Sinai is one of 12 integrated academic medical centers whose medical school ranks among the top 20 in NIH funding and U.S. News & World Report and whose hospital is on the U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll. Nearly 60,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients last year, and approximately 560,000 outpatient visits took place.

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